Cell reproduction is asexual. For most of the constituents of the cell, growth is a steady, continuous process, interrupted only briefly at M phase when the nucleus and then the cell divide in two.
The process of cell division, called cell cycle, has four major parts called phases. The first part, called G1 phase is marked by synthesis of various enzymes that are required for DNA replication. The second part of the cell cycle is the S phase, where DNA replication produces two identical sets of chromosomes. The third part is the G2 phase in which a significant protein synthesis occurs, mainly involving the production of microtubules that are required during the process of division, called mitosis. The fourth phase, M phase, consists of nuclear division (karyokinesis) and cytoplasmic division (cytokinesis), accompanied by the formation of a new cell membrane. This is the physical division of “mother” and “daughter” cells. The M phase has been broken down into several distinct phases, sequentially known as prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase and telophase leading to cytokinesis.
Cell division is more complex in eukaryotes than in other organisms. Prokaryotic cells such as bacterial cells reproduce by binary fission, a process that includes DNA replication, chromosome segregation, and cytokinesis. Eukaryotic cell division either involves mitosis or a more complex process called meiosis. Mitosis and meiosis are sometimes called the two “nuclear division” processes. Binary fission is similar to eukaryote cell reproduction that involves mitosis. Both lead to the production of two daughter cells with the same number of chromosomes as the parental cell. Meiosis is used for a special cell reproduction process of diploid organisms. It produces four special daughter cells (gametes) which have half the normal cellular amount of DNA. A male and a female gamete can then combine to produce a zygote, a cell which again has the normal amount of chromosomes.
The rest of this article is a comparison of the main features of the three types of cell reproduction that either involve binary fission, mitosis, or meiosis. The diagram below depicts the similarities and differences of these three types of cell reproduction.